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UH's deficit expected to grow by $2.6 million


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POSTED: Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Faced with a projected deficit of close to $2.6 million for the fiscal year ending today, University of Hawaii athletic director Jim Donovan is looking to hold the line on the budgets for the school's sports teams while keeping ticket prices at current levels.

Donovan said the department generated about $25.8 million in revenues and totaled close to $28.3 million in expenses for the 2008-09 fiscal year, based on numbers through the end of May.

“;We've made $1.3 million in cutbacks, we have open positions that aren't being filled. We're doing everything we can do to lower our expenses without doing any long-term damage to the athletic programs,”; Donovan said.

Once the figures are audited, the 2008-09 deficit would be added to the $5.4 million cumulative deficit the department carried into the year.

Donovan said the long-term goal remains to balance the budget and to start paying off the overall deficit, “;but these are the worst economic times our state has seen since statehood.”;

With the overall state of the economy impacting ticket sales and weather affecting turnout for some of the Warriors' football games, Donovan said he thought the deficit might run near $3.3 million. But the cutbacks—which came in administrative and support areas—and a bump in attendance for the UH baseball team in the spring trimmed that number.

Of the $25 million in revenues, Donovan said the department generates about $21 million with the rest coming from the university and the state.

“;So when the economy's really tough it has an effect on how much we can generate,”; he said.

As the department tries to weather the downturn, Donovan said he's working to balance the need to cut expenses without putting the teams at a competitive disadvantage, and thereby affecting attendance.

“;It's all predicated on (being) successful on the field and court,”; Donovan said. “;That's what all of our coaches are trying to do. That's one of the reasons why I'm not cutting the sports budgets. If you cut their budgets, it just makes it that much harder for them to win and winning's so important right now as far as getting revenue.”;

Still, he is asking the programs, “;to spend only what they absolutely have to.”;

Donovan said the department is also looking to keep ticket prices at last year's levels. Increases may be possible next year only if the economy improves.

“;The most important thing for us right now is to be affordable to the masses,”; Donovan said.

The athletic department was running in the red last year, but the deficit was covered by the BCS payout following the Warrior football team's appearance in the Sugar Bowl.

The department could be looking at another seven-digit deficit for the next fiscal year, but the outlook will remain hazy until issues at the state level are resolved.

“;Everyone's waiting to see what guidance we get over the next couple of weeks with furloughs vs. other cuts,”; he said.

A proposal to add an athletic fee to the UH tuition is dead for the fall semester at least. But discussions will continue, “;to see if we can come up with a model that makes sense for everyone involved,”; Donovan said.